Crest Nicholson to return to stock market

Crest Nicholson, the housebuilder which went private in 2007 just before the housing bubble burst, intends to return to the London Stock Exhange.

Crest Nicholson, the housebuilder which went private in 2007 just before the housing bubble burst, intends to return to the London Stock Exhange.

The developer, which operates in the Southern half of England, hopes to raise around £50m through an offer comprising both new and existing shares.

Chief Executive Stephen Stone said the firm had a long and successful history as a public company, having traded on the main market between 1968 and 2007.

"We have a robust balance sheet, a valuable land bank, and a management team that has experienced the best and worst of the housebuilding cycle," he said.

"The housing market is entering a period of gradual recovery and with our emphasis on the South of England, including London, and the continued support for the new homes market from government, we are well positioned to generate value for shareholders."

It intends to use the proceeds to repay outstanding debt and enjoy additional operational flexibility.

The firm's recent history has not been a particularly happy one.

It was taken private by a 50-50 venture between HBOS and Sir Tom Hunter, the Scottish entrepreneur, in May 2007.

As house prices collapsed in the wake of the financial crisis it was forced into a £630m debt-for-equity swap that handed 90% of the stock to its lenders.

Crest is now majority owned by Varde, the US distressed investment fund.

It has a short term land bank of which over 95% is focused on the South of England, with 16,959 plots on 72 sites and an estimated gross development value of around £3.9bn.

The firm said completions increased by 23.8% in 2012, while the average selling price of open market homes increased 2.7% to £230,000 per house.

House building firms have been enjoying something of a purple patch lately.

Barratt Developments said its first half pre-tax profit was expected to be more than double than the prior year and anticipates a significant improvement in profit for the full year 2013.

Bovis Homes Group recently posted profits ahead of expectations, while Taylor Wimpey saw a 40% rise in operating profits in 2012.

The results have largely been driven by an increased number of house sales, couple with higher selling prices.

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